[WATCH] Greece declares state of emergency as at least 50 die in wildfires

Greece faces its worst fire crisis in more than a decade, with at least 50 people dead in wildfires close to Athens

Forest fires forced people to flee their homes (AFP)
Forest fires forced people to flee their homes (AFP)

Greece has declared a state of emergency as at least 50 people are feared to be dead in wildfires burning near Athens.

Greece faces its worst fire crisis in more than a decade and is requesting assistance from the EU after forest fires forced people to flee their home.

According to the Red Cross, at least 26 bodies were found in the yard of a villa in the seaside village of Mati, which is at the centre of the disaster.

Before news of the grim discovery, the official death toll stood at 24.

Two people died on a motorbike, one in a car and another underneath a car, all in what appeared to be a traffic queue heading for the safety of a nearby beach.

Emergency workers have also used boats and helicopters to evacuate people from a beach.

Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blazes and some people have left their homes near Athens.

A search and rescue operation is being conducted for 10 tourists who fled one of the fires in a boat, officials say.

"We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters.

He cut short an official trip to Bosnia in order to help coordinate the response to the situation, which firefighters have described as "extremely difficult".

At least 104 people are injured, 11 seriously, with 16 children among the casualties.

The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007
The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007

The thick smoke from the fires has led to main highways being shut down, while an orange haze has settled on Athens. Flights have also been diverted because of low visibility.

Residents in the worst-affected areas were forced into the sea to escape the flames.

"Thankfully the sea was there and we went into the sea, because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water," said Kostas Laganos, who survived the Mati fire.

"It burned our backs and we dived into the water... I said my God, we must run to save ourselves."

Prime Minister Tsipras said that "all emergency forces have been mobilised" and declared a state of emergency in the Attica region around Athens.

One fire is burning northeast of Athens in the Penteli area, where at least six people were taken to hospital after suffering burns, said fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri.

The extreme weather comes as dozens of wildfires continue to rage in Sweden.

Countries including Italy, Germany, Poland and France have all sent help in the form of additional planes, vehicles and firefighters.

But with temperatures set to soar again, they are in a race against time to get the fires under control.

The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007, when dozens of people were killed in the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

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